Colombia says world must act to end Venezuelan ‘dictatorship’

Colombian President Iván Duque called on the world to take decisive action to end the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, saying “the end of the dictatorship, the return of democracy and outright freedom is the only possible path” for the country.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, Duque said Latin America needed the world’s help to deal with the estimated 1.6 million Venezuelans who have fled the country since 2015 — many of them to neighboring Colombia.

While Turkey has received about 3.5 million Syrian refugees — or about 600,000 per year for the last six years — Colombia “in less than two years has opened its doors to almost 1 million Venezuelans,” Duque said.

“The world must act and come together so that this tragic exodus comes to an end and so that hope can flower again [in Venezuela],” he said.

“The international community should ask for the release of all political prisoners and should quickly identify the best solutions for this crisis,” he said.

Among the solutions, he said, is the establishment of a multinational fund to support the countries that are absorbing the migrants. The United States has pledged more than $95 million in humanitarian assistance for Venezuelan migrants since July 2016.

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The comments come as the Venezuelan crisis has taken center stage at the U.N. meeting. For the last two days, President Donald Trump has suggested that military intervention may be necessary to resolve the humanitarian crisis. On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned four more Venezuelan officials, including Venezuela’s first lady, Cilia Flores.

But Trump has also extended an olive branch, saying he would meet President Nicolás Maduro in New York, if he were to make the trip.

Maduro had initially declined to appear at the event citing assassination fears.

Colombia has many of its own problems, including a spike in coca crops, the resurgence of guerrilla groups and the assassination of human rights leaders and community organizers.

But it remains one of the United States’ strongest allies in the region and has been seen by Washington as a bulwark containing the Venezuelan crisis.